Tuesday, April 12, 2011

O is for Oman: Curiosity killed the Cardamom

I'm sure most of you have already figured it out, but Oman is the only country in the world that starts with "o", but do you know where Oman is located?? Oman, officially The Sultanate of Oman,  is the second-largest country in the Arabian Peninsula (about the size of Kansas). It is situated near Saudi Arabia and surrounded by the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, and the Arabian Sea.

Omani food, like most Arab cuisines, comprise of rice, vegetables, chicken, fish, and mutton. However, Omani food is not as spicy as other Asian countries, and focuses more on marinades.  Using the right amount of spices is key in Omani cooking, both for the taste and the color of the dish. Food is often spiced and marinated with cardamom (lots and lots of green cardamom), red pepper, turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon, lemons, limes, garlic, cloves, dates and saffron.The main meal is eaten during midday and revolves around rice. Meals usually consist of a large plate of rice with a type of sauce, usually tomato based, served with meat and veggies. 
Omani culture is known for their hospitality and kahwa, coffee, symbolizes their cordiality and is an integral part of Omani culture and cuisine. Kahwa, is a dark coffee with cardamom, and nutmeg, served with either a side of dates, halwa, a sticky, sweet dessert made with brown sugar, honey, spices, and nuts, or lokhemat , balls of flour and yeast flavored with cardamom, deep fried, and then served with lime and cardamom syrup.


The Ramadan moon over a mosque
As an Islamic absolute monarchy, Oman, and her cuisine, is influenced by the principals of Islamic religion. Although meat is a large part of an Omani diet, pork is not eaten because it is prohibited by Islam (sorry no bacon). Ramadan is extremely significant in Omani culture. Ramadan is the month where the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Mohamed. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset for the sake of God and to learn humility, patience, and spirituality. When the fast ends at sunset, families gather together for an Iftar feast. Two of the most popular traditional dishes are served after Iftar (the breaking of the fast), Sakhana, a sweet stew made of wheat, date, molasses and milk, and Fatta, meats and vegetables, served with Khubz rakhai , thin Omani bread made from unleavened dough. Another meal eaten on festive occasions is Shuaw. The method tp prepare shuaw is elaborate and  takes the participation of entire villages. The dish consist of a whole cow or goat marinated with red pepper, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cardamom, garlic, and vinegar, and then wrapped in sacks made of dry banana or palm leaves. These sacks are placed in a pit dug in the ground to create a special oven and covered for 24-48 hours. 

Although, I didn't have much of choice in what country to write about this week I still enjoyed learning about Oman and Islam. Muslim culture and religion is still a very touchy subject in the U.S. I don't think many people connect Islam to hospitality, but Omani cuisine is great example of how friendship is a major part of Islamic culture.  


As one can assume there isn't many, or actually any, Omani restaurants in Columbus, Ohio. So instead I did much more extensive research on recipes and splurged on cardamom and saffron, two of the most expenses spices known to grocery stores. I found many Omani message boards that provided a plethora of recipes. I really wanted to make kahwa because it was mentioned on every single website I saw, and because it is such an important part of Omani culture. And what goes better with coffee than breakfast! I was excited to make a breakfast, because it is my favorite meal of the day, and I haven't made a breakfast meal yet. To my disappointment, I don't think I like cardamom. Cardamom has a very strong, bitter-savory, flavor. Although it is in chai tea, which I love, I think the other flavors must hide the cardamom. So, I wasn't a huge fan of the food, but that okay, because I still loved learning about the culture! And if you love cardamom then you will love these dishes!

serves 1
  • 1 cup of vermicelli* pieces cut to 1/2 in pieces
  • 2 tbsp butter, divied
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp dried coconut
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cardamom
  • 1 large pinch of saffron
*a type of pasta

  1. Saute the chopped onions in butter until lightly browned.
  2. Remove the onions from the pan and place in a bowl.
  3. Scramble the eggs in the same pan.
  4. While the eggs are cooking, bring water to boil and add vermicelli. Cook till al dente (still a bit firm)
  5. Place scrambled eggs with onions. 
  6. In the pan melt the remaining butter with cardamom, saffron, sugar, coconut, onions, and eggs.
  7. Drain vermicelli and add to the pan.
  8. Serve warm.
makes 2 cups
  • 3 tbsp of coffee
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of sugar 
  • pinch of cardamom
  • pinch of nutmeg
  1. Bring water to boil 
  2. Add sugar and stir until it dissolves
  3. Add cardamom and stir.
  4. Add coffee and then nutmeg.
  5. Add more sugar to taste.


  1. Wow Steph. I definitely feel as if I learned something new today. Oman is a place that I just did not know much about. I so love reading your blogs!!!!

  2. Sthephanie,estas haciendo un trabajo excelente,me encanta leer tu blogs,como dice Angelett,contigo siempre se aprende algo nuevo.Primero no me imaginaba que solo un pais del mundo se escribiera con O,segundo me encanto conocer de la cultura de Oman,me parecio muy interesante.Te amo.

  3. well....stephanie..!!
    i m too glad to know that some1 admired muslims culture and islam.
    m very happy 4 u nd at the sametime 4 me...
    i simply request u to give a gud image about muslims to the world..
    ya i know that we r not very gud pictured community, bt i hope that the world will change its biased attitude sooner or later...
    i would love to make some other people like u to brief about islam, muslims and offcoarse about pakistan
    m frm pakistan...nd is feeling some thing inside me to promote my religion..to make it sure that evry1 else should also see it the way u did..
    again thankew very much stephanie for making myself proud of being a muslim...
    ASSALAM O ALAIKUM ..!!! may ALLAH bless u amin!!